Friday, April 3, 2009

Bono vs. Bill

. Friday, April 3, 2009

Now this is interesting. A Clash of Development Titans: Bill Easterly has picked a fight with the Bono-fronted ONE campaign over their response to Dambisa Moyo's new book Dead Aid, which is highly critical of aid programs in Africa. Easterly and co-blogger Laura Freschi:

The vigorous and public debate that has greeted the release of Dead Aid is a good thing for transparency and effectiveness in aid, no matter what you think of Moyo’s book. ONE apparently doesn't agree. There are two things wrong with ONE’s campaign to discredit Moyo.

First of all, ONE misrepresents Moyo’s ideas to better tear them down. For example, ONE characterizes Moyo’s plan as a call to “shut off all aid in 5 years,” when Moyo is very clear about excluding humanitarian aid and NGO/ charitable aid from her discussion.

Second, rounding up some Africans who happen to disagree with Zambian-born Moyo doesn’t alter the quality of her proposals, which deserve to be debated on their own merits. (We’ve blogged about the intellectually dishonest technique of the “authenticity trump card” before.) When the ONE campaign says in its email “We are collecting quotes from Africans who might disagree with her…”, it seems to be saying we will not trust or allow Africans to have this debate on its merits on their own.

Ouch. In aid circles, the "authenticity trump card" is like the "race card" in American politics: you don't go there unless you're losing. But ONE isn't giving in, and Easterly was magnanimous enough to post a response on Aid Watch:

In terms of the emails you refer to, yes, we emailed people in Africa who we work with to see what they thought, as many are involved directly with aid-funded initiatives. Their experience is very relevant in thinking through the impact of Ms. Moyo’s claims. So it wasn’t an attempt to shut a conversation down, but an effort to open one up. And it’s succeeded! We’ve also been in a direct and ongoing conversation with Ms. Moyo, before and after the book’s release. Our concerns are no surprise to her. We agree with your concerns about aid transparency and, as you know, we recently helped launch “publish what you fund”, an aid transparency effort. We share the goal of “asking that aid benefit the poor” (as you write on your website) and we campaign to ensure that it does.

We don't get that many (public and interesting) feuds in the social sciences, especially not spats that include the world's biggest rock-star-cum-aid-proponent fending off charges from the world's biggest aid skeptic.

We can only hope this escalates.


Bono vs. Bill
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